Beau Johnson reminds us revenge is a dish best served . . .
Moments in Time by Beau Johnson
Most times, a thing you see can’t be unseen. 9/11. Kennedy’s head exploding. The Challenger space shuttle doing the same. Events like these, you remember where you were when they occurred. What you were doing. Who you were with. More important, it stays with you, perhaps even shaping you. Not a day goes by I don’t think about Frank Dodds and what he causes to explode one sunny afternoon back before the turn.
Batista and I are just off shift when this goes down, and having lunch at a diner he frequents, one he’d been going to long before we’d been partnered up. A throwback to the fifties, jukeboxes lined the place, with even more nostalgia adorning the walls: records behind glass, autographed pictures of men and women in the prime of their lives. Wait staff too, all dressed up and decked out in an attempt to remind their customers of a better time and place.
“Breakfast for lunch?” Batista asks, but I don’t get to answer the big man: this the moment Dodds decides to enter the diner and destroy not one life, but three.
In a bomber jacket and jeans, he’s all commotion and sweat, in his eyes a look I had by now seen a handful of times, his wiry frame up beside the cash register and gumball machine. Not good. Any of it. Before Batista and I can remove ourselves from our stools, Dodds does the unthinkable, produces a sawed-off and points it against the belly housing his unborn child.
Arlene Dodds screams and screams again. Just as fast, she collects herself. If I knew her I’d say she was smart. Not in life, no, but in regards to her current course of action and the choice she made.
“I know it ain’t mine, Arlene. Oh, I know! You talk a good game but maybe it’s time you tell these nice people the color you got growin’ inside you.” Stillness. One beat. Two. The entire diner holding its collective breath to Richie Valens’s Donna.
Unfortunately, the dam breaks. Dodds’s eyes, they begin to play fetch and a second before it occurs, I see the chaos to come dance across his face.
“Fuck it,” he says.
My hand moves to my revolver. My legs begin their stance.
Too late. The sight I am given the very thing I have yet to un-see, even after all these years.
No bigger than a chicken wing, cut off at the elbow, the forearm of his unborn kid—the same color as the man who destroyed it—comes to rest three feet from me. There on the floor, there in front of me, I stare at it for what seems like hours. It twitches once, twice. The spurting liquid—more black than red against the dark tile—is too much. More than I signed on for. I’d seen things, sure, and more was to come, but in that moment, as I take in that arm, I am done. More than done. Frozen. The badge on my belt far from what it was ever supposed to mean. Gone and replaced by a rage I would soon embrace with all I would ever be.
Batista, on the other hand, held no such compunction. Two to the chest and Dodds is down. And, like that, the world rights itself. Order is restored.
We call it in. Dodds survives. His missus and child do not. Fast forward thirty years and here we are again, the same three men within spitting distance of each other, the same three men connected by the same moment in time.
“I knew it’d be you, Rider. I mean, how could it not? I knew.” He’s thicker now, the years inside used to his advantage. Almost bald, his eyes are clearer than they were back then too: no more squirrels attempting to move the furniture between his ears. Only now, he’s zip-tied to a support beam.
Batista picked him up earlier, once Dodds’s weekly court ordered visit had been put to the books. Was a time the detective and I would have never done such a thing, but age and time are good at giving way to understanding, I’ve found. Especially if the things in question are things you wished to carry on.
“You’re like a bogeyman is what you are. A chaser to the time we’ve already served.”
He assumes I care for anything he says. I don’t. Neither of us do. The only thing left to do being the same thing he’d done to his wife.
I load the Remington and adjust the stock. Only when I have it against Dodds’s stomach does Batista appear at my side. “Not like this,” he says, and I look to him. I understand in a heartbeat. Dodds does too.
“Fucking do it then! I’ve been waitin’ just as long as you!” Both barrels fit snug under his jaw, like they and the crook of his neck were always meant to be. I pause for one beat, two. The image of that unborn arm like Kennedy’s head, coming to the forefront of my mind in ways I cannot stop.
It is everything. It is nothing.
It’s the life I can’t un-see.